Interesting little slide show over on Forbes about ticket prices throughout the NHL. A few observations:
1) Ottawa is right smack in the middle of the league, with a 15th highest average ticket price of $137.82. That’s less than the average ticket price for a non-traditional market like San Jose ($150.65) and teams who’ve been mediocre for a while, like the Islanders ($150.60) Wild ($153.82) and Sabres ($139.53).
2) There’s a pretty big drop between the top ten highest average ticket prices and 11 on. Number ten is Pittsburgh at $203.93, and 11 is the Wild–almost fifty bucks cheaper.
3) The Kings, Caps and Flyers are a surprisingly cheap ticket, considering their respective payrolls and the Kings’ recent success.
4) Is there better value in the league than a Colorado ticket right now? They’re 29th at $86.40, and you get to see Duchene, MacKinnon, and any day now Patrick Roy doing something insane.
5) The most expensive ticket is Toronto at $368.60. Obviously.
What makes this interesting for Ottawa fans is that we just emerged from a summer of reporting on the team’s financial woes. Melnyk (who is scheduled to appear on the radio later today…I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that he’ll say something dumbfoundingly ridiculous and contradictory) said the team loses staggering amounts of money, doesn’t have much in the way of secondary revenue streams, etc.
I’m sure the team has reliable market data that tells them precisely the point at which raising ticket prices will result in a drop-off in attendance, but I was surprised by how low Ottawa’s ticket prices are. Especially considering that all of the other Canadian teams were in the top seven in ticket prices. Montreal is the next cheapest at $257.06–over a hundred bucks more per ticket than Ottawa. (Though surprisingly they’re a cheaper ticket than Calgary and Edmonton. Also cheaper than Winnipeg, though given the small size of their arena, I suppose that makes sense.)
There’s a lot we don’t know here. For instance, does this average include corporate suites? What about ticket packages that drive down the average but increase stability for a team that needs a reliable revenue stream? Does the location of those other teams’ arenas increase walk-up purchases of pricier tickets? But just on the face of it, it looks like Ottawa could include a sizeable increase in ticket prices and they wouldn’t be out of line with the trends in the NHL. This, even with ticket prices having gone up by 6% over last year.
But would Ottawans be willing to pay more? I think the Sens have been really proactive about their outreach to fans, and I recall a poll performed in the last few years that showed that ticket prices were a concern. We also all know about how difficult it can be to get out to games. (Something they’re trying to alleviate by paying for additional ramps for buses to the arena from the highway.) With so many options to watch the game downtown and spend that ticket money on beer and food instead, would a sizeable increase really damage the underlying number of people who would be willing to chant Pageau’s name on the bus for 40 minutes?
Like anything, I assume you’d have to see the money reflected in the quality of the product. While it’s nice that Ottawa has affordable tickets, they don’t spend much in the way of salary, spending less than all but four other teams. It seems to me that Ottawa is running a pretty bare-bones operation: low salary, not much in the way of fan giveaways, none of the razzle-dazzle you see in big markets like Chicago with red-carpet openings and flashy free agent acquisitions. But on the other hand it’s cheap. We’re like No Name brand pancake mix.
[UPDATE: I got an email about the home opener today – there IS a red carpet event! Touch me, Stephan Da Costa! TOUCH ME.]
Remember also that this is the average ticket price, and there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. I don’t think I’ve paid more than $60 for a ticket unless it was to a playoff game. I’ll be at the home opener on Thursday and my ticket was $45.
So, what say you? If you knew that Ottawa was going to go from 25th in league spending on payroll to, say 15th (which is Chicago), would you pony up for it?